American Spectacle comments on racism through fine art 

American Spectacle, my latest protest drawing, refers to Blake and Stedman’s etchings while overlaying the terms of American butchery. The piece illustrates the racism of our nation in a color palette of patriotism.

In the shadows of the morning.

American Spectacle is inspired by the cruel appetite the public holds for images of Black murder. Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile are current examples of how we feed racism by sensationalizing the images of Black bodies murdered by the state. 
American Spectacle is approximately 42×35, Sharpie, ink, and acrylic on 140 lb paper. $1800. 

Works by artist K Ryan Henisey are currently on display at LAMAG’s Open Call: Play at Barnsdall Art Part and the Newhall Aquarium. Paintings will show at Ink and Clay 42 at the Kellogg Gallery at Cal Poly Pomona and Viral: 25 Years from Rodney King at the Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland this fall. 

 

It’s okay to be wrong… 

We can be wrong, and often are when it comes to race. But that’s okay as long as we acknowledge our errors and work to correct our actions. 

I was wrong when I painted my award winning piece, #ArtToEndViolence. But I was also incredibly right. 

My error was using the hashtag for ‘all lives’ along side that of black lives, trans lives, and gay lives. Yes, the life of every individual should be measured with equal importance, but the use of all lives diminishes the real danger faced black Americans, especially at the hands of police. 

I’ve been wrong before as well. I used to think that my queer experience was similar to the black experience — I too have been the victim of prejudice. But I also had all the associated privileges of my whiteness — first to be chosen by the teachers, over culture speech patterns, access to higher education, private school, etc. People don’t cross the street when I come their way; instead, they smile as if we’re long time associates. That is something black men don’t experience in the United States.  

The painting went on to win an award that summer at the California State Fair in Sacramento. It struck at the hearts of thousands, illustrating in joyful tones the bow familiar faces of the dead. The blacklivesmatter movement gained momentum. I realized my mistake. No one had to tell me. I could see how I had whitewashed the very movement I was trying to help. 

You see, when I used ‘all lives’ I diminished the special danger that faces black lives. Yes, in a perfect world, equality and value for life should be the same; but we do not live in a perfect world. In our world, people of color and people of difference are at greater risk than others. If all lives did matter, there would not be such disparity. 

ArtToEndViolence has been quite successful. It showed in six locations in California last year and a replica is on a year long display in downtown LA. When I look at the piece now, I’m still proud. But I’m proud because I see how I’ve grown — I can acknowledge my privileges and I can correct them moving forward. It’s in part my testament to privilege; which, just like the lives chronicled, is a true part of my evolution. 

So it’s okay to be wrong. We all are when it come to experiences we don’t know. The trick is accepting your mistake and doing something different the next time. 


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K Ryan Henisey is an award winning artist, writer, and teacher. For more of his paintings, illustrated children’s poetry, musings, and more visit http://kryanhenisey.com

Tamir Rice, a child victim of the Blue Holocaust

  
When they come, black booted and their sirens blazing, the community shuts its doors and draws its curtains tight. To the neighborhood, emergency sounds mean another black boy may die tonight.
On November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice was shot and killed by two police officers.
Tamir was in a park, with his toy gun. When the call was made to emergency services, Tamir was described as “a male sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people,” “probably a juvenile.” Tamir was fired upon twice, fatally struck once in the torso. The investigation into Tamir’s death is ongoing but failures of justice and controversy surrounding police-involved deaths of other African American children has caused unrest in neighborhoods throughout the United States.

Tamir was 12 years old. This occurred in Cleveland, Ohio.

Hands up. Don’t shoot. 

   
The above was excerpted from the full statement on #BlueHolocaust. The original watercolor and ink paintings have shown in various locations throughout Southern California.